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Full text of "My country and my people"

THE    ART    OF    LIVING                    315
yards and the scholars' studios, and in the arrangement of vases, the essential idea is the beauty of simplicity. Many of the scholars5 studies are made to look out on a small clean courtyard, which is the very embodiment of quietude itself. In the middle of that courtyard stand just two or three of those rhythmic and perforated rocks, bearing the mark of sea-waves, or some rare specimens of fossilized barks, and a small bush of bamboos which are so loved because of the fineness of their lines. Perhaps in the wall is a fan-shaped window with glazed tiles in bamboo pattern as bars, giving just the merest suggestion of the existence of a world of wheat fields and farmers3 houses outside.
The principle of surprise which Shen Fu outlined for the poor scholar's small residence holds good in a rich man's home garden. The English word "garden" gives an entirely erroneous idea of the Chinese jrwzfl, for "garden" suggests a lawn and an infinite variety of flowers, altogether too prim and tidy to suit Chinese taste. The Chinese yuan suggests first of all a wild landscape, perhaps better arranged and more artistically planned than nature, but still a bit of nature itself, with trees, mounds, creeks, bridges, a rowing boat, a patch of vegetable fields, fruit trees and some flowers. Dotted in this natural landscape are the human structures, the bridges, pavilions, long winding corridors, irregular rockeries, and sweeping roofs, so perfectly belonging to the scenery as to become a whole with it. There are no even-cut hedges, no perfectly conical or circular trees, no symmetric rows lining avenues as if in battle formation, and no straight pavements—none of all those elements that contribute to make Versailles so ugly in Chinese eyes. Everywhere we see curves, irregularity, concealment and suggestion,
No Chinese mansion allows an outsider to look through the iron gates at a long drive, for that would be against the principle of concealment. Facing the gate, we see perhaps a small courtyard or a mound giving no idea whatsoever of the expan-siveness of space inside, and leading one step by step into newer and bigger views, in a continual series of surprises and astonishments. For we wish to show the small in the large, and show the large in the small. There is little possibility of gaining a bird's-